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Knut Hamsun Center

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dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

Knut Hamsun Center

Project Status


Year Completed



24,445 sq. feet


Nordland Fylkeskommune (County)


  • LY Arkitekter AS
  • Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson and Associates
  • Structural Engineer: Rambøll Norge
  • : Ove Arup
  • : Rambøll Norge
  • Lighting Designer: L'Observatoire International
  • Lighting Designer: Vesa Honkonen Architects
  • Landscape Architect: Landskapsfabikken



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Project Description


Knut Hamsun, Norway's most inventive twentieth-century writer and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, fabricated new forms of expression in his first novel Hunger. This center dedicated to Hamsun is located above the Arctic Circle by the village of Presteid of Hamarøy, near the farm where the writer grew up. The 27,000 square-feet center includes exhibition areas, a library and reading room, a café, and an auditorium for museum and community use.
Influenced by Hamsun’s explorations of the intricacies of the human mind, the building is conceived as an archetypal and intensified compression of spirit in space and light, and as a Hamsun character in architectonic terms. Inspired by passages of Hamsun’s texts, there is an "empty violin case" deck, while a viewing balcony is like the "girl with sleeves rolled up polishing yellow panes."
The concept for the museum, “Building as a Body: Battleground of Invisible Forces,” is realized from inside and out. The wood exterior is punctuated by hidden impulses piercing through the surface. The spine of the building body, constructed from perforated brass, is the central elevator. The board form concrete structure with stained white interiors is illuminated by diagonal rays of sunlight calculated to ricochet through the section on certain days of the year.
The tarred black wood exterior skin alludes to Norwegian Medieval wooden stave churches and on the roof garden, long chutes of bamboo refer to traditional Norwegian sod roofs.
The auditorium is connected to the main building via a passageway accessed through the lower lobby, which takes advantage of the natural topography, allowing for natural light along the circulation route.

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